IN THE HOUSE ~ Bill C-8, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

40th Parliament, 3rd Session
Bill C-8, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, we will get beyond the rhetoric of the parliamentary secretary because we have time during the debate today to talk about what the real impacts have been of this government's misguided trade policy.

Certainly the 2,000 people in my riding who have lost their jobs as a result of the softwood sellout can attest to the fact that government members, at the very best, are trade dilettantes and, at the very worst, are very destructive to our manufacturing capacity and our value-added industries.

This bill was brought forward in September. The NDP at that time clearly signalled that it wanted it to go to committee so labour activists could be brought in to talk about the labour rights component and have human rights activists brought in to talk about some of the concerns that have been raised.

Thank goodness Jordan is not Colombia. Colombia is an appalling state that has abuses and murders occur routinely. We in the NDP have been signalling that we wanted to send this bill to committee for eight months and the government, in its incompetence, has not brought it forward. Why has the government not brought it forward so we could send it to committee and hear from witnesses?

Context : Questions and Comments
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary has not answered the question. Eight months ago all four parties signalled they wanted to send it to committee, eight months ago. Instead, the government has been pushing forward with the extremely controversial Colombia trade deal, where very clearly there is no consensus in the House, and systematically refusing to bring forward the Jordan bill, even though it was signalled.

We heard the Bloc member for Sherbrooke signalling that he wants it to go to committee. He wants to hear from labour activists and human rights advocates. We in the NDP certainly want to hear from labour activists, human rights advocates and women's rights groups. We want the trade committee to delve deeply into the Jordan trade and see whether the components actually match the government's rhetoric. Yet the government has refused to bring it forward. It simply begs the question: Why has the government waited eight months?

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the comments by the member for Kings—Hants. He always defends well his position.

I agreed with some of his comments, particularly on the delay that the government has put into effect on the agreement itself. It is an eight month delay which is absolutely ridiculous when all four corners of the House were saying move this forward.

I disagree on one comment he made around NAFTA. As we all know, since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was implemented most Canadians' family incomes have actually declined, not gone up. It is only the very wealthy in Canada who have seen their incomes go up. However his comments were interesting.

I would like to ask him a specific question on the Jordan agreement. Obviously there will be some concerns expressed around the agreement and some amendments will be brought forward.

Would the member support an independent assessment of the human rights and labour rights situation in Jordan as an amendment to the bill and in the agreement? In other words, independent and impartial human rights organizations and labour rights organizations would evaluate how

Jordan is actually implementing its responsibilities under the agreement.

Context : Questions and Comments

M. Peter Julian: Monsieur le Président, je remercie mon collègue de Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. J'aurai pu lui poser les questions suivantes, parce que nous avons effectivement le droit, en tant que Comité permanent du commerce international, de faire des amendements à ce projet de loi.

Est-il prêt à considérer tous les amendements possibles pour renforcer cette entente et aussi pour répondre à toutes les préoccupations qui pourraient être soulevées par les témoins qui se présenteront éventuellement en comité?

Context : Debate

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on Bill C-8, which is the implementing law for the trade agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

I will start by referencing the delay that the government has put on. We have heard a lot of rhetoric around this deal, as we have heard from previous deals the government has put forward. It is important to do a reality check. The government had a green light from all four corners of the House from the very beginning to bring it to committee. There are some major concerns that I will raise and reference a little later on.

I think it is fair to say that the controversy around Bill C-2 and the Colombia agreement is very clear and palpable on the floor of the House. With the Jordan agreement, all four corners of the House wanted to bring it forward and have it debated. They wanted it brought to committee and to hear from the many witnesses that have an interest in this so that the committee could then make the necessary amendments.

For eight months, the government has refused to bring it forward. For eight months, it has hidden behind the Colombia deal and stalled on this bill. Far from agreeing with the rhetoric that this is another important step forward in trade policy for the government, we have to ask why the government stalled for eight months on this when it was given the green light to at least bring it to committee within a few days. All four corners of the House asked for it to be brought forward and the government said no, it was not going to do that.

I think this speaks to a larger problem, which is the complete incoherence of the government's trade policy and industrial policy in general. We have seen it for four years. We have seen what kind of legislation the government brings forward. It is fair to say that the NDP has been front and centre in standing up to what the government has brought forward, but the delay around the Jordan bill just shows the dilettantism of the government when it comes to trade policy.

This is no small issue. When we look at the last 20 years, since the implementation of the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, the real income of most Canadian families has gone down, not up. The real incomes of the two-thirds of Canadian families who comprise the middle-class and poor Canadians have gone down right across the country.

The only ones who have actually profited and seen an increase in their real income over the past 20 years since the first implementation of these agreements have been the wealthiest of Canadians. The wealthy 10% have seen their incomes skyrocket. One-fifth of Canadians, the wealthiest 20%, now take most of the real income in this country.

To say that the free trade agreements that have been brought in by the Liberals and Conservatives have led to instant prosperity is simply false. StatsCan puts the lie to those pretensions that this is somehow a coherent and smart industrial and economic strategy. There has been no economic strategy. There has been no real focused trade strategy and the result has been that most Canadians are poor.

We have to ask about the actual record of the government since it came to power. We saw the softwood lumber sellout, which has killed jobs right across this country, including 2,000 in the two communities in my riding of Burnaby—New Westminster. We have seen the shipbuilding sellout, which was opposed by the NDP. We saw and heard from hundreds of shipyard workers from across the country, including Quebec, Atlantic Canada and British Columbia. They said that it was going to have a huge negative impact on our industry.

The government did no impact studies. It was just flying by the seat of its pants. It was out-maneuvered by Liechtenstein. I hesitate to say it, but it is true that Liechtenstein, a tiny country in Europe, actually out-maneuvered the Conservative government.

Context : Debate

We saw the softwood sellout, we saw the shipbuilding sellout and we saw the Colombia trade deal, which we can discuss another day because I know we should stick to Jordan, but the record of the government is extremely poor.

Then we have to ask the question: What are our competitors doing? Our competitors are investing in export promotion support. The United States, Australia and the European Union are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year in providing support for their export industries and export promotion supports. What are we doing? If the government actually wants to go beyond its dilettante approach on trade issues, what is it doing?

I was in Argentina just last week with a number of hon. members, including my colleague from Honoré-Mercier, and at that time we found out an astounding fact about the government's total budget in export product promotion support for the emerging market of Argentina, consisting of 40 million people, the wealthiest market in South America. The entire budget devoted by the Conservative government is $400 a week.

For a market of 40 million people, its budget is $400 a week. That is less than the average dépanneur in Quebec and the average corner store in Burnaby—New Westminster. In a marketing radius that is a few blocks on either side, they will spend more than $400 a week. The entire federal government supports for our export industries and product promotion in the entire market of Argentina with a population of 40 million people is $400.

That is repeated across the board. In the United States we spend paltry cents on the dollar compared to other countries, like Australia. Its total budget for export promotion support is $.5 billion. Our total budget is a few million dollars. This is what is wrong with the government's approach. It simply does not provide the kinds of supports that other major industrialized countries, our competitors, do.

What the NDP has been saying ever since the Conservative government came to power is it has to change that approach. It simply cannot go to these trade agreement ribbon cuttings and expect that somehow the job is going to be done. The job is not getting done. Most Canadians are for it. Canada is making less and less as a result. We had our first export deficit in 20 years a few months ago. Obviously, there is something wrong with this approach.

Even if these trade agreements were fair-trade based as opposed to the old NAFTA template model, do the trade agreements themselves make a difference? Obviously not because with a number of these bilateral agreements our exports have actually done down in those markets after being signed. In every single case, imports from the countries that we have signed with have gone up. In other words, those countries have managed to profit from the agreements signed with Canada, but in Canada's case exports have actually gone down. How can we sign an agreement and not have the follow-up or strategy to bolster our exports? That is, indeed, what has happened.

This is the overall problem with the government's overall approach. It certainly has no industrial strategy, it does not have an export-oriented focus and it is not willing to invest Canadian government funds in the way that other countries do to bolster their industries.

I should note as well, because there has been some rhetoric flying around the House this morning on this agreement, this whole idea that Canada should not be trying to protect and sustain certain key industries is something that every other industrialized economy has adopted. It is something they put forward as part of their industrial strategy. The Conservative government is seemingly selling out every industry in our country, but France, the United States and every other country has a real key focus in making sure that they are investing in their key industries.

Context : Debate

The NDP gets criticized by the Liberals and Conservatives for bringing forward buy Canada strategies. Well, that is where the rest of the world is. They are making sure they have a strong foundation.

Far from making things together, which is sort of the spin, the buzzwords that we hear from the Conservatives, Canadians are making less and less, exporting more and more raw materials, whether it is raw logs or raw bitumen, across the line, and exporting more and more of those jobs, so those jobs end up elsewhere. That is the fundamental problem with how the government approaches economic issues generally and trade policy in particular.

Now we can talk about the more specific aspects of the Jordan agreement. As I mentioned earlier, we think this needs to have a thorough vetting at the committee stage. Amendments need to be brought forward on this agreement for reasons that I will mention in a few moments. What we are endeavouring to do is to get this to committee so we can hear from labour activists, human rights advocates and from those who are concerned about women's equality because those are all issues that have been cited in some of the many reports that have come up about problems with Jordan.

It is fair to say that Jordan has made progress in a number of different areas. Jordan is certainly not Colombia with the horrific death toll, disappearances and killings of labour activists that are a tragic daily reality in Colombia with paramilitaries tied to the government and the Colombian military. In a very real sense Jordan has tried to make progress. I will mention some of that progress later on.

The agreement itself is a NAFTA template style agreement, with investor state provisions that we have raised concerns about before, and labour and environment co-operation agreements that are toothless. That is the overall problem. That is why we will have to bring strong amendments to this bill at the committee stage.

There is no doubt that Canadian values are betrayed when we have toothless components around labour rights and environmental stewardship. Most Canadians want to see very robust protections there. We also undermine our own Canadian values when we subject the kind of democratic decision-making with an override, which is the investor state provisions of NAFTA. We have raised this issue before in the House. This is simply, in our minds, not the appropriate route to go.

Given the framework of the agreement which is inadequate and is a template from which other countries have moved away from, other countries are looking at more fair trade approaches to their trading relationships, we have to ask the question: What is actually happening in Jordan? What are the issues?

I would like to cite three reports. The first is from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. This was released a couple of weeks ago on March 11. It is the 2009 country reports on human rights practices. This is where they cite Jordan. What they say is the following:
Restrictive legislation and regulations, limited freedom of speech and press, and government interference in the media, and threats of fines and detention led to self-censorship, according to journalists in human rights organizations.

The government also continued to restrict freedoms of assembly and association. Religious activists and opposition political party members reported a decline in government harassment.

That is a good thing.

However, legal and societal discrimination remained a problem for women, religious minorities, converts from Islam and some persons of Palestinian origin.

Local human rights organizations reported widespread violence against women and children. The government restricted labour rights and local and international human rights organizations reported high levels of abuse of foreign domestic workers.

The report goes on to cite some of the specific areas of concern around respect for human rights. I do think it is important to both mention those reports and also to flag some of the comparisons with other countries.
First is arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life. There were reports during the year that the government or its agents committed unlawful killings.

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I want to state at the outset that Jordan is not Colombia. Colombia has one of the most appalling human rights records on the planet, the worst record on the entire planet for the massacring of labour activists, worst record on the entire planet for the forced and violent theft of land of rural Colombians. Colombia is a horrible case study of what happens when there is no concern for human rights.

In Jordan there have been some improvements. For that reason we want to see a fulsome vetting of the agreement at the committee stage.

However the member is absolutely right. He has a long experience in the House and trade agreements, trade bills, are amendable by the House of Commons. We have been saying this for some time. It would have meant that we could have addressed some of the most egregious aspects of the softwood sell-out or the shipbuilding sell-out but the reality is the House has the right to amend these agreements. Now I think for every trade agreement that comes forward the trade committee and the House will have to be seized by those amendments and by those changes. That is very important.

However any assessment has to be independent. It cannot be the Colombian government evaluating itself. It cannot be the Jordanian government evaluating itself. It has to be an independent and impartial human rights assessment by one of the many organizations that actually specialize in ensuring that evaluation.

Context : Questions and Comments

Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, Jordan is not Colombia. Thank goodness.

Colombia's appalling connection with the regime, with the paramilitary, the widespread killings by the Colombia military, the theft of land, which is all tied in this murky soup around the Colombia trade deal, is not present in the Jordanian agreement.

The Jordanian agreement is weak on human rights. There is no doubt. That may be something that we could bolster with suggestions from human rights advocates, labour activists and women's rights activists. We may be able to make some changes. We will have to see.

However, the two situations are completely different.

Colombia has the worst human rights record on the planet when it comes to forced theft of land and killings of labour activists. Jordan has made some clear improvements. As I pointed in my speech, we are talking about two killings, both prosecuted in Jordan by authorities. In Colombia, we are talking about hundreds of killings, and virtual impunity. That alone should make the Conservatives take a step back and ask themselves what they are doing, trying to ram through this bad deal with Colombia when there are so many circumstances and there are so many Canadian values that are being repudiated by this pressure.

That is why I think the trade committee will be happy to take the Jordan agreement and pull it apart to see what the impacts are and try to put it back together. It is a far less egregious situation than the appalling situation in Colombia.

Context : Questions and Comments
M. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NPD): Monsieur le Président, je sais que cet avertissement est fait à l'intention des députés gouvernementaux parce qu'ils semblent perdre un peu la traque sur ce débat sur la Jordanie, alors ce sont des paroles que les conservateurs vont comprendre et absorber, je l'espère.

J'aurais deux questions, au sujet du projet de loi C-8, à poser à mon collègue de Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. J'apprécie beaucoup de travailler avec lui en comité. Ma première question concerne cette période d'attente de huit mois. On a commencé à discuter de cette entente il y a huit mois, alors que les conservateurs ont tenté de la cacher derrière une autre entente, dont je ne vais pas mentionner le nom. Donc, effectivement, cela a mené à un délai de huit mois. Alors c'est un peu bizarre aujourd'hui qu'enfin ils amènent cela en Chambre. Alors d'après le député, pourquoi le gouvernement a-t-il mis un tel délai dans la considération de cette entente?

Deuxièmement, j'aimerais lui poser la même question que j'ai posée à notre collègue de Kings—Hants. Le Bloc québécois serait-il d'accord qu'on apporte des amendements à cette entente, au projet de loi, justement pour s'assurer d'avoir une évaluation indépendante et impartiale sur la situation des droits humains en Jordanie, avant la mise en vigueur de l'entente, et aussi de façon régulière pendant la durée de cette entente?

Context : Debate
On November 8, Saddam al-Saud died of injuries allegedly sustained in police custody at the al Hussein police station. On October 17, police arrest al-Saud during a fight between street vendors in Inam, Jordan. On October 18, authorities transferred an unconscious al-Saud to a private hospital. al-Saud's family said police caused al-Saud's injuries when they hit him on the head with a gun. The public security department investigated the case, arrested six police officers and charged them with two felonies, death caused by hitting, an abuse of PST regulations. At years's end, cases against the officers were ongoing.

They also cite one other case, Fatpre Preshun, who died of injuries sustained during an altercation with police in the southern city of Ma'an. Again police prosecutors investigated the case, arrested the police officer and charged him with two felonies. The case before the police court was ongoing.

In terms of unlawful deprivation of life, we have two incidents. It is fair to say that in both cases, the police officers have been charged. That is important and it contrasts with other countries, most particularly Colombia, where the ongoing slaughter, and there is no other way of putting it, of human rights activists and labour activists was treated with impunity, where 95% of the cases did not lead to any sort of prosecution at all. In Jordan's case, the two cases have been followed up with charges.

Disappearances is category B. There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances, and that is welcome. Again it contrasts with other countries. I will take Colombia as an example, where there have been widespread disappearances, hundreds of people who have simply disappeared in politically motivated kidnappings or killings done by paramilitaries tied to the Colombian government and the Colombian military. In Jordan's case, there were no reports of politically motivated disappearances in 2009.

Category C is torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The law prohibits such practices, however international NGOs continue to allege that torture and mistreatment in police and security detention centres remained widespread. Nevertheless, some domestic NGOs claimed that recent reform efforts had reduced cases of torture and mistreatment in police and security detention centres.

The fact that NGOs are reporting that is welcome, and of course we contrast that with other countries. I will take Colombia, for example, where the Colombian Commission of Jurists has pointed out widespread cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by the Colombian military and by paramilitaries tied to the Colombian government.

For the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, there are obviously some concerns, however some indications of improvement, and I would like to move on to Human Rights Watch.

Its World Report 2010 cites concerns around migrant domestic workers and the abuse of women in Jordan. In 2010, it cites that Jordan should strike clauses from the law that allowed for punishment-reducing mitigating circumstances for so-called honour killers, ease restrictions and the law governing the operation of non-governmental organizations to bring it into compliance with international standards on freedom of association, revise regulations governing migrant domestic workers to comply with international labour and human rights standards, set up a mechanism to investigate allegations of abuses against workers, again a concern about domestic workers, strengthen accountability for torture by moving jurisdiction over acts of torture by police agents from the police court to civilian courts, and stop withdrawing the nationality of Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin. These are concerns raised by Human Watch.

The final report I would like to cite is done by Lubme Dowani Nimre, who is an attorney at law in Jordan, raising concerns about the treatment of women. She states that the average number of so-called crimes of honour, and there is no other way of describing it except an abuse of women, average about 25 a year.

Context : Debate
She does reference the fact that civil rights activists were speaking out loudly and fighting this phenomenon and mentions that some members of the royal family have participated in demonstrations against article 98 and article 340 of the Penal Code. She sites that in some areas of Jordan a woman's life is at risk if she talks to a man who is not a relative. She says very clearly that there needs to be substantial revisions to the code in Jordan to assure women's equality.

For those reasons, we raise concerns about this agreement.

Context : Questions and Comments
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a couple of words about the member for Kootenay—Columbia. I have not had a chance to pay tribute to him in the House and I understand that he is not going to run again whenever the next election is held, whether it is this year, next year--

An hon. member: Or the year after.

Mr. Peter Julian: Or the year after, Mr. Speaker. He may be here longer than he wants to be. I certainly appreciate his contribution to the House as all members do. I appreciate him raising this question today.

The reality is that I criticized the government in the first part of my speech about the lack of follow through--

Context: Debate
Mr. Peter Julian: Yes, I am sorry the member missed it as well, Mr. Speaker.

The government simply does not walk the talk on trade issues. It does not provide the kind of export promotion support that all our major competitors do. It does not provide the internal protection for key strategic industries that all industrial economies do.

I criticized the government. I did say we were in favour of getting this bill to committee because we want to have a fulsome airing of this agreement. We want to hear from human rights activities, from women's rights activists and from labour activists as well. We want to get the bill to committee but we want to see some major changes to this agreement as well.

Context : Questions and Comments
M. Peter Julian: Monsieur le Président, j'apprécie la question de mon collègue de Sherbrooke, avec qui j'aime beaucoup travailler.

C'est justement là que se situe le problème. Le comité devra se pencher sur un ensemble de difficultés. En plus de ce que vient de mentionner le député, il y a toutes les questions relatives aux droits des femmes. Les femmes divorcées qui se remarient par la suite perdent la responsabilité de leurs enfants. Si un enfant est né à l'extérieur du mariage, la même chose se produit. Les enfants sont enlevés aux soins des femmes.

Même si les hommes de Jordanie peuvent donner la nationalité jordanienne à leur femme et à leurs enfants, les femmes jordaniennes n'ont pas le même droit. En Jordanie, il y a une inégalité au niveau des sexes et on doit s'y pencher, en plus de toutes les autres préoccupations relatives à cette entente et soulevées par le Bloc et par le NPD.

Context : Questions and Comments
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the member for Welland is one of the most learned members on trade issues in the House. He, like other members of the NDP caucus, has actually read the agreement. What we have seen time and time again is Conservatives trying to push bad agreements, whether it is the softwood sell-out, the shipbuilding sell-out, the egregiously bad Colombian agreement which is a complete sell-out of human rights.

My question for the hon. member for Welland is this. Why does he think Conservatives keep foisting these bad agreements on the House of Commons? Is it because they do not really understand what is in the agreements?